Buspreneurs doing awesome stuff on planet Earth and throughout the Universe

Archives › StartupBus

StartupBus Europe 2015 Kicks off

2 StartupBus Belgium

Last night StartupBus Europe 2015 had kick off parties in Belgium, U.K., Germany, Italy and Estonia. Eat, drink and be merry the night before the epic journey to Cologne. Buses are ready to depart 29 August.

This Year, StartupBus has gone Pirate

0 Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
StartupBus Europe 2015 is a special guest with Pirate Summit, a tech Startup “jubilee” in Cologne. All StartupBus 2015 participants will get automatically accepted into Pirate Summit 2015.

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus EU?

Apply today


Want to know more about Pirate Summit? Read more:

What is Pirate Summit?

The first Summit was in 2011 and is now on it’s fifth run, founded by Till (Ohrmann, Captain Till) who is still first matey and CEO. The Pirate Summit celebrates entrepreneurship. It’s an unique meet-up of early-stage startups and investors on a rusty scrapyard. Core activities: Walk the plank pitch competition with 70 pre-selected startups from 50+ nations. Burning Man and Party on the first night. It’s a startup festival to celebrate entrepreneurship & foster strong connections among the european startup eco-systems. The mission of Pirate Summit is to connect the best early-stage startups of all seven seas with the best investors. A typical attendee is wearing jeans and an eyepatch, screaming “ARRR” all the time. We have fire, shanties and rum everywhere.
Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 – Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

The Pirate Summit is an incredibly cool event that totally lived up to our expectations! It is a great opportunity to mingle with the European startup scene.

Philipp Moehring – Head of Europe at AngelList (US/UK/Germany)

Some etiquette rules from: http://www.arrr.co/eps/show-your-inner-pirate-how-to-dress-and-talk/

How to dress

Eyepatch, pirate hat, pet parrot, sword (fake please), a huge beard (if you can), wooden leg. Well, you get the concept. It is all about making your inner pirate visible. For the ones wondering whether we’re joking right now… No, we’re not!

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 - Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Pirate Summit, Cologne, Germany 3 September 2014 – Image by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

How to talk

For sure you have come across the typical pirate ARRR! – which you can use in almost any situation – a few times already. Yep, this is lesson 1. Not too difficult, ey? Use it once in a while and you’ll be fine. We’ll make sure to remind you of that one as well :) Still, if you want to impress your fellow pirates even more, make sure to memorize a few of the following words and sentences as well.

It is a really down-to-earth event and the whole setting gives you the freedom to be who you are. People here act without an agenda and focus on what they can do for each other. I will definitely come back.

Fabio VolkmannBlitzbude (Germany)

Want to read more about Pirate Summit?

Check here: http://www.arrr.co/eps/582/ and here: http://www.arrr.co/eps/well-thats-a-success-props-to-former-eps-participants/

5 Epic Reasons to Join StartupBus Europe

1

 
In less than a week, the best and the brightest will come together to compete in StartupBus Europe, the continent’s most epic competition – combining the magic of a hackathon and a road trip to create the ultimate adventure on wheels. We’ll be hitting all the raddest hot spots and tech shops as we make our way to the invite-only Pirate Summit 2015, where buses from 5 countries will converge in the quest for StartupBus glory.

If you’re crazy enough to hop on a bus and build a business with a bunch of strangers in 3 days – or you know someone who is – send them our way

Epicness awaits. 

 

apply now

 

Still on the fence? Here are 5 more epic reasons why you should stop everything you’re doing now and sign up for StartupBus Europe:

 

#1: Do Something That Scares You.

like_a_bus

If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Push yourself past the limits of what you thought was possible and find out what you’re truly capable of. Whether you’re a hackathon junkie or a total n00b, chances are you’ve never been stuck on a bus with 20 strangers and given 3 days to build something – it’s nothing short of magic.

 

#2: Eurotrip – ‘Nuff Said.

double_decker_bus

Who hasn’t dreamed of driving across Europe on a double decker bus in a blaze of glory? This is your chance to travel all over the continent stopping at all the coolest spots and making plenty of killer products (and bad decisions) along the way…

 

#3: Make Epic Shit.

going_to_space

Think of it as a people accelerator, or a way to fast forward your life. You’ll learn more about yourself in 3 days than you have in 3 months. Cause when else in life will you have a completely safe environment to test out those crazy ideas with complete creative license?

 

#4: Join The Club.

super_heroes

You’ve heard it before: “the StartupBus will change your life” – but it’s only after 3 days of no sleep and countless hours on the road that you understand what it means to be part of the tribe. Become part of a #DreamTeam you can’t buy your way into and join ranks with some of the most elite hackers, makers and hustlers around. Start friendships that will last a lifetime and fill your rolodex with a list of insanely awesome people that you can call at any time.

 

#5: Pitch at Pirate Summit.

pirate_walk

1st Rule of StartupBus: Always Be Pitching. This year’s finalists will get the chance to brush up on their elevator pitch skills on stage at Pirate Summit’s infamous ‘Walk the Plank’ competition. Route escapades aside (and trust us, they’re awesome) – the destination alone is worth the trip. When else do you get to crack some beers and nerd out in Odonien, a scrapyard in Cologne with rusty robots, zip lines and fires galore? 

Whether you’re a billionaire or haven’t started a company, if you’re the kind of person who dares to risk it all, this is the place for you.

 

Chances to change your life don’t come often. So what are you waiting for?

 

apply now

 

Major League Hacking, Jon Gottfried on MLH Origins and StartupBus

0 1908082_790969547620392_5811290487377053989_n-1
Jon Gottfried, Co-Founder MLH

Jon Gottfried, Co-Founder MLH

Jon Gottfried is a co-founder of Major League Hacking and a StartupBus Alumnus, former director and conductor

Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus EU?

Apply today


How did you get involved with StartupBus?

I heard about StartupBus in 2011. I had recently joined twitter and I didn’t have many followers and I started to follow a bunch of people in the tech space. I saw it popup in my timeline one day and so I applied on a whim but I didn’t really expect anything to come of it but I got an email from Justin Isaf who was the conductor that year to schedule an interview. While I was waiting to hear back I started to hustle a bit and used Twitter to find all the other people who were on StartupBus and kinda immersed myself in that world pretty quickly.

MLH has a weird long history. I actually registered the domain name majorleaguehacking.com in 2011, a week after I got back from StartupBus.

What drew you to StartupBus?

I honestly have no idea why I decided apply. I guess it was just crazy enough and just weird enough and just legit enough that I thought it was a real thing. That year, Justin was a great conductor, but the communications from the organization were almost non-existent. We would go on for weeks at a time without hearing anything and then the night before the buses were leaving you’d hear “Oh by the way we’re meeting here tomorrow at 6am at this location.” It was just very scrappy and I think that added to the appeal of it.

You were one of the first directors for StartupBus what was your experience like with that?

So I was on the bus in 2011 and then I was a conductor in 2013 and then I was director in 2014. This gave me some experience working with the organization and helping out at various levels and I also had some experience at that point from Twilio both for sponsoring and organizing events. So I teamed up with Andrew Pinzler – kind of an operations mastermind. We had two big goals for that year. One was to have a more process oriented approach to dealing with sponsors and conductors.

Our first season [at MLH] we had five events and now we have 75 every six months. We do about 150 events a year and it all started by just a random idea thrown around by a couple of people.

We  systematized communication and made the event sustainable from a financial standpoint. We made sure the conductors, the regional organizers, could focus on making their buses an awesome experience and recruiting the best people rather than worrying about logistical bullshit that could be more easily organized at a national level. So we enacted change there. Before that each conductor was responsible for their own sponsorship, operations, hotels. We centralized a lot of that to take it off their shoulders in order to change the focus for conductors to the culture on the bus.

Where did MLH come from? What was it like getting it off the ground?

MLH has a weird long history. I actually registered the domain name majorleaguehacking.com in 2011, a week after I got back from StartupBus. I talked to John Britton who also worked for Twilio and was on my team Lemonade Stand on the bus. We were kind of discussing the idea of making like a league for professional hackers – there were a lot of hackathons at that point – but nothing ever came of it. A couple years later, Swift, my co-founder and I, agreed to quit our jobs to work on something together but we didn’t really know what we were gonna work on.
Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.17.34 PM

The time came to quit our jobs and he decided to quit and I didn’t. I said I would stay for another six months. So Swift left his job and he was talking to people like Dave Fontenot and Tess Rinearson. He pitched this idea of ranking all the student hackathons, which were starting to grow in number and frequency.

We all kind of started to talk about the idea of Major League Hacking. Dave had started a list to rank them. So Swift reached out to me and said, “Hey can I use these domain names? I want to move forward with this thing.” And people were really into it, and it started to get a ton of traction.

Each year 50,000 students participate in our events. We do them in North America: US, Canada, Mexico and Europe: U.K., Spain, Romania, Germany and it’s growing really fast in Europe.

After six months, I quit my job and joined Swift and that was about almost two years ago. And it’s been going great ever since. Our first season we had five events and now we have 75 every six months. We do about 150 events a year and it all started by just a random idea thrown around by a couple of people.

How big is MLH and where is it represented?

Each year 50,000 students participate in our events. We do them in North America: US, Canada, Mexico and Europe: U.K., Spain, Romania, Germany and it’s growing really fast in Europe. We have still have a lot of work to do but it’s a big movement. One of the fun carry-overs that I’ve got to experience with both StartupBus and MLH was booking coach buses. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences with buses working both StatupBus and MLH.

One of the fun carry-overs that I’ve got to experience with both StartupBus and MLH was booking coach buses. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences with buses working both StatupBus and MLH.

One year on StartupBus got stuck in a freak ice storm and was on the side of the road for six hours and a woman came up and knocked on the door to use the bathroom. At MLH we had a bus full of students in Georgia near Atlanta that broke down halfway to an event and when we called the bus company to get a replacement bus the company told us they were going bankrupt and that we were shit outta luck. We had to find another way to get the kids off the side of the road. We ended up renting a ton of cargo vans and loaded them up. It was a weird thing. Coach buses are interesting to deal with.

What experience from StartupBus has helped you with MLH?

StartupBus is based on community and there are a lot of things I learned there about how to build a tight-knit group of people and I utilize that skill at MLH.

A million different things. I gained a lot of experience dealing with large scale operations and sponsorship – all of those things carried over to MLH. Also building a community. StartupBus is based on community and there are a lot of things I learned there about how to build a tight-knit group of people and I utilize that skill at MLH.

Check out Hack the Planet by MLH

The new season of MLH kicks off in September check out the events at mlh.io

Eugenia Brini, StartupBus Italia 2015

0 View_over_the_Italian_city_of_Verona_-2012

Eugenia BriniI’m Eugenia Brini, a graphic designer, Teacher of natural cooking and startupper!

Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus Italia?

Apply today


Tell us about your history with StartupBus. What regions have you participated with. What did you build when you were a buspreneur?

I’m totally in love with Startupbus! In 2013, the first Italian edition, I was a buspreneur and this changed my life. On the bus we created a startup that would improve the method of learning and teaching to children, through edutainment. We were finalists in the Pioneers festival in Vienna.

I learned to solve problems quickly, to work in teams with new people, and learn to control stress. These three characteristics are very useful in everyday life and in my experience as an organizer are really valuable.

What made you decide to become an organizer for StartupBus Europe?

I decided to become an organizer because I believe in challenges’ importance: to improve myself but also the world in which I live. I think it’s a great project that has the potential to create the entrepreneurs of the future, open and curious, capable of overcoming problems and find solutions, and not afraid to get their hands dirty!

Give us an idea about the Italian StartupBus. What are some unique challenges that startups face in Italy? What makes Italy ideal for startups?

Italy. I think this word evokes so many ideas: design, foods, culture, art, history, cars, fashion … The real problem is the mentality. I do not want to open a criticism, I believe that this country has all the credentials to become a nation for startups, since we are a land of entrepreneurs, if we could simplify a little ‘our bureaucracy and our way of thinking … even if that makes us unique in the world anyway!

In my opinion Sb Italy, brings a breath of enthusiasm and ideas really new. A different point of view, perhaps the desire for change that young people feel strongly in a nation in crisis. Then we bring creativity and skills, desire to communicate and to improve the everyday’ lives.

From Munich to Cologne via StartupBus DE, Lucas Wagner, Conductor Germany

0 Munich
Lucas Wagner

Lucas Wagner, Conductor from Germany

Meet Lucas Wagner, conductor for  StartupBus Germany 2015. Applications are open!

Do you have what it takes to ride StartupBus Germany?

Apply today


Tell us about yourself

I’m the Product Manager of a young SaaS startup founded by Project A Ventures in Berlin.

Last year I participated for the first time in StartupBus Europe. Actually I just came in last-minute on the German bus after a friend told me about his life-changing experience with being both a buspreneur and conductor (thanks Ben!). We built Never Eat Alone, an app to connect employees with which we placed 2nd in the competition.

In Germany we have many talented people and there is lots of money. On the other hand, we have strict laws and many Germans are quite risk-averse. I really like Fuck Up Nights where people talk about their failures.

I gained a network full of incredibly smart and motivated people. I learned to recognize and focus on what’s important. And I learned that everything is possible, if you just push yourself to the limit.

What made you decide to become a conductor/producer?

That was an easy decision. Right after StartupBus 2014, I knew I would want to conduct a bus and teach the next generation of buspreneurs to help them make the same experiences that I had on the bus.

In Germany we have many talented people and there is lots of money. On the other hand, we have strict laws and many Germans are quite risk-averse. I really like Fuck Up Nights where people talk about their failures.

What does Germany bring to the global StartupBus community?

Maybe another 2nd place this time? 😉 And of course, 30 kick-ass buspreneurs hungry for success!

StartupBus Europe Set to Roll August 29th

0 CGqbHeiVIAEtkod

Applications for StartupBus Europe are underway. Do you have what it takes to join the world’s most intense hackathon? Apply for origin regions: Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Estonia or U.K. today!

We’ve gone Pirate

StartupBus Europe is a partner of Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany. Participants on the bus will be guests of honor at the Pirate’s Summit and automatically entered into the Walk the Plank competition.

Spread the word

Join our ThunderClap to spread the word about StartupBus Europe.

Building a Robot Cofounder

0

photo by Ben Husmann

In the beginning there is never enough time and never enough people to do everything that your startup needs done. The dev team could always use an extra hand, the nontechnical cofounder always hogs the summer intern, you enjoy the spike in traffic a new blog post brings but wish you could figure out a way to write it in your sleep.

Worst of all are the critical tasks that need to be done on a regular basis over time in order to be effective. Nothing kills your entrepreneurial stamina like monotony.

That’s why I started building a robot cofounder for Exversion almost a year ago.

My robot cofounder is really a collection of scripts and APIs that automate our most basic regular tasks. Most of these tasks are biz dev or social media related, but you can just as easily build automation into boring and awful technical tasks if you wanted. I cannot overstate the power of smart automation. Anyone can write a script that runs regularly, but the robot cofounder project was about making sure the output of those scripts didn’t seem like it was generated automatically. People love robots, but no one wants to feel like they are talking to one.

That makes it sound like there’s some complicated machine learning AI magic built in, but really it’s more about applying small amounts of human processing in the right places.

Task One: Managing a Weekly Mailing List
It started with our mailing list. The mailing list always brought in tons of traffic, the problem was writing the content was a real pain in the ass. I knew we really weren’t utilizing this resource very well, but I also knew that most of the startup mailing lists I have been automatically subscribed to I also automatically delete every week. There didn’t seem to be much point to taking valuable time away from tasks I enjoyed to produce content many people would never even open.

That being said, there are a few weekly emails I do look forward to reading. And they all had one thing in common: they were news digests. Blogs posts and announcements on niche topics that interested me compiled and delivered weekly so that I didn’t have to troll the internet looking for them.

So I thought to myself: why don’t we do that with data? No one else is.

This is how Exversion’s weekly mailing list came to be. Every Tuesday night a cron job fires on Exversion’s server that runs a request to Algolia’s API. Algolia– if you are not aware– has built a search engine that indexes Hacker News. So robot cofounder sends a query to Algolia asking for all links posted to Hacker News in the last week have the keyword “data” in either their title or comments. We take only the first twenty links.

Then robot cofounder scrapes DataTau’s front page. DataTau is basically a data science specific Hacker News clone. It has much less traffic, but consequently articles that make it to the front page are much more technical and in-depth. There are no startup announcements, no general interest links. An article can stay on the front page for a full week.

Lastly robot cofounder assembles a list of new content on Exversion that we may want to promote. This includes blog posts, tutorials, interesting new datasets or new data requests.

Robot cofounder takes this large list of links and pushes them to MailChimp’s API which assembles the mailing using the right template and formatting and schedules it to be sent out to Exversion’s mailing list pending approval. Robot cofounder than triggers a test email which delivers the draft to my email.

Now all that remains for me to do is to trim the list of links down to the most interesting collection of news. I cut pretty aggressively, trying to get the right blend of data science, data infrastructure, open data news. The balance between content for beginners and content for experts is particularly important. We want there are be something for everyone at every skill level.

Once that’s done I create a title, regenerate the plain text version and click send. The whole process takes me around ten minutes.

Task 2: Manage Our Twitter Account
The mailing list worked out really well. We had a wave of unsubscribes as our emails went from once-every-six-months to once-every-week, but we were anticipating that. It had been so long since our last email surely most of our subscribers had forgotten they were subscribed! Over the next two months the bleeding stopped and slowly but surely we started gaining more users than we were losing. People were constantly coming up to me and telling me how much they loved the new mailing list and we got a nice spike in traffic every Wednesday.

It was time to expand robot cofounder’s responsibilities to our Twitter account.

The thing about sites like Hacker News and Reddit is that they are basically firehoses to content. No one can keep track of everything so there’s a real value in tapping into that content and helping people find the gems that will interest them. Our weekly digests were great, but they only grabbed the top matches for the week at that moment. It seemed like a smart idea to resuscitate our neglected Twitter account by having it distribute interesting data news daily.

And since the code for grabbing that news was already written, automating our Twitter account was just a matter of setting up a free Buffer account and hooking robot cofounder into their API.

Every morning when I open up Exversion’s admin dashboard, robot cofounder has prepared a list of links about data extracted from Hacker News the day before. I approve the ones I think are worth tweeting and robot cofounder assigns a time for them and sends them to Buffer. The whole process takes no more than five minutes.

Task 3: Harvest and Qualify Sales Leads
I have recently fallen in love with Contactually (FYI – signing up with that link will give you $10 off) which is a tool to automate and manage your relationships via email. You can import contacts from almost anywhere, sort them into buckets and build whole automated programs around the buckets that send specific emails at certain times based on certain triggers.

Most people use Contactually as a CRM, but robot cofounder uses it for so much more than sending dry sales email. Because they have a pretty robust API, I can create whole series of interactions with users and potential clients that seem organic and real but are actually generated and managed by Exversion’s server.

What Good is a Robot Cofounder?
Since I started building a robot cofounder, traffic to Exversion has grown by 275% Our twitter account has gone from hundreds of followers who were mostly fake to thousands of followers who are extremely real and influential in our field. Our mailing list open rate is a good 20% above the average for our industry. All this is starting to translate nicely into more users, more sales, more speaking engagements, more collaboration opportunities and most importantly more free time for me to write code!

A Startupbus tale: The day I learned how to code & enjoy country

1 StartupBus North America Mexico 2015

I’m not a techie girl. I love gadgets, I love facebook, I know how to use illustrator and photoshop, I feel a little handicap whenever I don’t have access to a wifi connection, and I’m an apple lover, but overall I’m not a tech savvy GIRL. I’m a designer. Actually I’m not a designer either, but thats a whole different story. Design is what I do and it is what i love. 

But this is not a story about design. This is a story about experimenting.This is a story about exploring and joining a community, this is a story about meeting people, this is a startup story, this is a story where worlds collide and make love like 2 horny drunk 20 somethings in a third date.

To begin, it would be nice for me to explain that I recently joined a group of crazy hackers. I’m not sure why or how, but I recently followed my heart, packed my stuff and left my pretty beautiful apartment and lovely office to move to a new city. Working online with my office and working in the evening with a group of amazing people whom in a few weeks went from being  “nice geeky guys”  to the most awesome team i could ever find; crazy smart hackers, lovely friends, silly stupid boys who tell bad jokes, overprotective boys, and all of those nice things one should find in a group of people you spend most of your day with. I work with a hacker school, and since I’m one of them now I can say I joined the most awesome, amazing, magical hacker school in the world.

Anyway… Every story has a facilitator. You know, that guy that enables the main character with maybe a magic weapon or secret and shares his wisdom. I have one of my own. Lets call him M. He is funny and a lil explosive, but he is awesome. He is the one that introduced me into this fascinating world of tech startups. And as crazy as it is, he is the one to convince me to pay a bunch of dollars in order to ride a bus with 30 strangers for 72 hours while working on a project i had no idea about and launch it. All of this while in a dirty bus, with no internet, no sleep and ugly food. This is The StartupBus. This is what our story is about.

StartupBus is like a hackaton (my first hackaton in fact), except its a super extreme hackaton. You take a bunch of great designers, business people and hackers and you dare them to launch a company as fast as they can. For me this is hard. As a strategy designer I’m used to the “fail fast, fail cheap, fail often” approach, but actually people give me money  in order to find user needs, doing research and finding a lot of insights before designing and launching a Minimum Viable Product and it’s  business model. In the StartupBus all of my research process went right out the window. We took an amazing Idea (Thanks Mau 😉 ) , created a team, and trusted our design-hustling-hacking instinct and started building a business. We just started working, and falling in love with our project.

So the first step to go on the StartupBus is applying. You have to fill in a standard application form. You put in your basics, your strengths and list the reasons why you should be on the StartupBus… My reasons? I never say no to a trip, M convinced me, and I like to think I’m a rather good strategy designer. So far so good. I applied. Then one day i got a call from this Benjamin guy who said he wanted to Skype to interview me for the StartupBus. And so we did. It was a nice call. He asked a bunch of questions, I answered. Everything was very normal until he said… “You’re in, but you have to fulfill a challenge.”  Turns out my challenge was to learn how to code in less than a week. This is when the StartupBus really started challenging my life. As I already told you I never say no to a trip, and it turns out my week, due to my traveling plans became a day. I convinced some hackers to “teach me” . Obviously I didn’t actually LEARN how to code but I did learn how to fake it and how to tell my computer to show me the stuff i wanted. Even with this little bit I felt way  too accomplished. I was ready for the StartupBus. I didn’t really knew what was going to happen, I just knew I had to buy a ticket back home and be in the meeting point at exactly 7 am the morning we were leaving.

The day we met it was all sunshine and happiness, except I felt like it was my first day at a new school. A mix of being very very nervous and super super excited. Everyone introduced themselves and pitched an idea. In just a few minutes the Mexican bus had 5 teams: an education platform, a choosing app, a tracking api, a game for kids, and my personal favorite ( cause it was my team 😛 ) a job swapping platform for creatives.

So the trip started. We jumped on the bus, and opened our computers. Thats when the internet died. Luckily we didn’t need it that much at the moment and our awesome hacker had all he needed right in his computer. Our first stop was Monterrey. El cowork was our first hosting space, and since we had to enjoy the internet we stayed up all night. This first night was very easy so we worked a lot and started building the platform. In the morning we headed towards Austin.

The one thing you don’t know is that Startupbus Mexico includes the “migration experience”.  In Nuevo Laredo border we had to come off the bus and basically pitch our startups and the Startupbus brand to the migration officers in order to convince them we  were actually going to a competition in Nashville. Some of them thought we were a little crazy doing this. Anyway, after 3 hours waiting at the border and 3 hours on the road we got to Austin Tx. The people at Tech Ranch Austin welcomed us with open arms and helped with everything, from hearing our bad first pitches to questioning the weak spots in our business models. To be honest by 3 am in Austin we were just about to die. We were way too tired and fell asleep for 3 or 4 hours.In the morning we washed our faces in the restroom and started our 13 hour trip to finally be in Nashville Tennessee. On the way we stopped for  “authentic tacos & quesadillas” in TacoBell (fun choice for a bus full of Mexicans), met a woman who got very angry about being called a “stranger”, found out that our conductor is one of those who buy all the weird stuff that gas stations sell, and figured out that the best beer comes in humongous golden cans.

StartupBus North America 2015

When we got to Nashville all of our fellow buspreneurs were waiting. It was amazing. The first real approach to our new community felt like getting home after years being away. We found our rooms at the hotel and started prepping our final pitching practice before the big day. The first day of competition arrived, and after meeting with a real shower we jumped in another bus and got to ground zero. That’s where everything was going to happen. Team after team was called into a “secret” room and pitched their startups. The semifinalist were announced, and luckily 2 of the Mexican teams were called back to semifinals (not mine though 🙁 ). As tradition states now all of us in the bus should lend our hands to help the called back teams to stand out. After an afternoon of Startupbus hysteria we headed towards downtown Nashville. There I discovered a type of music were hips are not needed: Country. At first we were not very into it, but eventually we mixed in with the crowd at Tootsies and danced the night away with an awesome rock and roll  band.

The day of the finals came and our new task was to help the team that was in. With an amazing hangover I headed to the venue, dusted off my graphic designer abilities and started helping. Excitement was at it’s highest point. All of the finalist were in a rush of nervousness, redbull, happiness, anxiety, angst… you know, all of those weird feelings entrepreneurs have all the time. Before the winner was discovered we got inspired by amazing talks and after a while the winner was announced. Pizzafy was this year champion and even thought there were a lot of mixed opinions that was one awesome pitch (congratulations guys :)!).  Night came and Tootsies again was the witness of all mixing and mingling of Startupbus North America. I felt like i was back in kindergarten, there were so many amazing human beings to talk with that I didn’t know where to look or what to do with the little time i had to party with this people. I met awesome buspreneurs. A lot of new friends, and in some weird way i felt like I found my kind.

The StartupBus experience began as a bunch of strangers pitching ideas and it ended as a family with inner weird jokes, thanksgiving worthy fighting, underage drinking and absolutely a bunch of people in the same family who didn’t choose to be together but now kind of love each other. 🙂

Marianne Bellotti, Exversion Alumni Company Data Hacking for The UN

1
I came onto the StartupBus in 2013 not really taking the startup aspect of it very seriously. For me it was just an interesting and unusual roadtrip and nothing more, but suddenly Jacek [Grebski] was standing up in front talking about all these data problems he dealt with everyday and wouldn’t it be cool to actually fix them?

It’s really funny in retrospect, at the time I tended to lump marketers together with recruiters in my mental classification system of lame people who go to technical events for the wrong reasons.

Jacek and I had run into each other a few times before the bus– we were both working in developer evangelism at the time, which is a very small close knit community– but because his background was marketing I always kind of assumed we had no mutual interests. It’s really funny in retrospect, at the time I tended to lump marketers together with recruiters in my mental classification system of lame people who go to technical events for the wrong reasons. So when he tried to talk to me before the bus I was always very skeptical about his agenda. It literally never occurred to me that he might be talking to me because we were interested in the same things. I wouldn’t say I was rude to him, but there was definitely some nodding while not really listening to what he was saying.
But on the bus his pitch hit upon ideas that I had been playing around with for months. It caught me completely off guard and I started to get really excited. I had always wanted to do something like Exversion, but I had always assumed it would be years before I could. Suddenly I was thinking “Why can’t we do this now? Why can’t I just build it?”
So that was that. The company is now two years old. We do a lot of consulting work building those data infrastructure solutions for huge organizations like the United Nations and the City of New York. Then we take that work and either integrate it into Exversion’s web platform for everyone to use, or open source it.

Being on the StartupBus

On StartupBus, I learned to recognize how badly I need to reign in my judgmental side, which is a huge plus in every aspect of my life. And the StartupBus community is a massive cache of contacts and recommendations. But I think the biggest advantage during the StartupBus is your close proximity to other teams. It’s not like normal hackathons where some teams come in fully formed with a project they’ve been working on for months, everyone starts from scratch. So while you’re trying to figure stuff out, you’re surrounded by other people trying to figure stuff out and you do end up learning from each other quite a bit. I’m a super competitive person and it was really interesting to be in an environment where the competition is intense, but the feeling of camaraderie is much more intense. That was the first time I was introduced to the idea that competing doesn’t automatically mean you are competing AGAINST someone else, which turned out to be a super important lesson.
Marianne Bellotti

Marianne co-founded Exversion on the 2013 North America StartupBus

Infrastructure is not something people enjoy thinking about generally. So in my industry the biggest barrier to a sale is not a competitor having a better product, it’s the buyer thinking to themselves “Ehh… well our current setup is good enough isn’t it?” Nine times out of ten their current setup is an elaborate network of Excel spreadsheets, dumped from a database ten years out of date, distributed over multiple Dropbox accounts and they don’t understand why their new data scientist hire is crying in the corner all the time. But still it’s really hard to get the person actually making the buying decision excited about investing in their infrastructure. If I come in and bash Exversion’s competition, it doesn’t make Exversion look like the best solution it just makes the client more skeptical of any infrastructure improvements. In our space there ends up being a huge difference between the companies that understand that by working together we all make more money, and the companies that think competing in business means competing against everyone else. Right now we’re watching one company from the latter having its empire ripped apart by a network of companies in the former.

So the structure of the StartupBus competition was a really good introduction to the type of competitive attitude that will ultimately make you successful.

What Happens After the Bus?

I went on the StartupBus because going on the StartupBus had been a turning point for every developer I knew that had an awesome career. At the time I was not happy at my job. I liked what I was doing but as a developer evangelist I was on a pretty short leash. I wasn’t working for a big startup with a nice budget for evangelism, so in a sense I felt like I was missing out on a lot of fun with conferences and hackathons. I wanted to change the game.
Afterwards I realized why StartupBus has the effect on people’s careers that it does. Normally building out your network takes months, possibly years of small meetings and run-ins. You can’t just get introduced to someone and immediately ask for a favor and expect that to go well. It takes time to develop the trust and familiarity that makes a connection really valuable.
On the bus though, all of that is accelerated. You go through some crazy stuff. It’s really like the Tough Mudder of hackathons in that sense. Shit happens and you band together. You don’t come home with thirty new network connections, you come home with thirty new best friends.

Did you think you’d be doing what you’re doing now before you started the bus?

Not at all. I expected to hack on something stupid for three days and abandon the project as soon as we got back. Two years later I’m still here.

I expected to hack on something stupid for three days and abandon the project as soon as we got back. Two years later I’m still here.

Many of the opportunities we’ve had came from reaching out to the StartupBus network: we’re invited out to SF by Y Combinator, Tech Crunch sent us to Berlin… Today I’m getting Request for Proposals for deals that are in the $1 million to $5 million range and it’s the StartupBus community that is helping me figure out how to grow to support that level of work.

StartupBus isn’t an event, it’s an investment. Two years, three years down the road you will still be reaping advantages. No matter what you decide to do with your startup once the competition is over.

store-banner